How to Create a Succession Plan for your Martial Arts School

At some point, long after first opening the doors, a martial arts business owner is faced with the decision of handing off a martial arts school to a trusted disciple. This hand-off could be due to retirement or an expansion of schools but the important thing is being able to do it correctly. If you’ve been following our blog, you know the importance of training instructors and always thinking ahead. Having a constant flow of talented instructors is key for long-term growth, as you’ll need to find a suitable replacement for the head instructor and management role.


Once you have willing participants and a plan in place, you can start the handover. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the original ownership or management disappears but the leadership itself will shift. They may still play a key role in helping facilitate long-term success. Here are some important factors for making sure your succession goes as smoothly as possible.


Assessing the Situation

Take a second to look at an overview of your martial arts school. Highlight your students and instructors who have potential for being in management or instructing. Hopefully, you can see a clear hierarchy within those members who may be able to help the new leader run things, day-to-day. If there are no clear replacements, you have a couple of options: you can either source outside help or train instructors.


However, you can only do the latter if the succession will take place in a year or more. Expansions are even trickier to deal with, due to the amount of high-quality instructors that may be required to fill the new school’s positions, as well as those at the old one. A good flow of high-quality instructors is key.


Your Instructor Pipeline

A school focused on long-term growth should constantly be thinking about the next instructors. Flagging students with teaching potential – as well as an intrinsic interest in martial arts – is always a good idea. These prospective instructors should be trained and nurtured. Having students in mind for teaching roles can help your school roll with the punches, in case of promotions and changes. For example, your instructor for the kids’ beginner class may be up for a 2nd degree black belt promotion, meaning he’ll need extra time to prepare, study and train. This is a great opportunity for you to provide some real teaching experience for your newer instructors who may have only had experience running martial arts birthday parties or other smaller events, up to that point.



Once the plan is in motion, you’ll need to execute things properly, to ensure everything goes smoothly. If the ownership structure is being changed, we recommend getting a lawyer to handle all of the details, so there are no disagreements in contracts and negotiations. Otherwise, promoting the necessary instructors and management will get the ball rolling. Training will be key and shouldn’t be rushed. If the school’s ownership has changed and the old guard is relieved completely of responsibilities, it is up to the new team to run the school. However, with an expansion or with a gradual retirement, the old head instructor may still need to support the new team, in order to ensure a successful transition and future for the school.


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